Marin County, Ca—In 1950, during the height of the Cold War, and in a country rife with fear of a Soviet attack, the Army Corps of Engineers bulldozed Mt. Tam’s highest peak to build an Air Force station. For 30 years, soldiers on West Peak watched the skies for Soviet bombers, prepared to launch jet interceptors and short range Nike nuclear missiles against an attack that fortunately never came.
The base was closed in 1980 as technological advancements made the radar technology used there obsolete. The 106-acre scar that remains is dotted with just a handful of crumbling structures, but most of the former base’s infrastructure, including numerous building foundations, pipes, power lines, and a network of roads and paved areas are still present.
“The West Peak is the apex of our watershed and for the past 36 years it’s been a decaying parking lot—a rotting military ruin.” notes local filmmaker Gary Yost. “To the indigenous people here, that area was the most sacred place on Mt. Tam for very real reasons of water purity and innate beauty. It’s time to see it cleaned up and brought back to a natural state.”
Like Gary, many of Mt. Tam’s supporters would like to see West Peak restored, but how and to what condition remains an unanswered. The first step toward an answer came in September when the Marin Municipal Water District approved funding for a feasibility study that will provide a basis for design alternatives. The District’s $225,000 contribution is being matched by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
“The first step in restoring West Peak will be to bring in the necessary expertise to see what is technically possible given the site’s geology, its ecological and historical values, and the lingering effects of the military’s presence at the site,” said Marin Municipal Water District Board Member Armando Quintero. “We need all of that information before we can determine what a realistic range of restoration alternatives might entail.”
The 18-month-long evaluation will help fill in gaps in existing site inventories, and will allow project managers to develop an understanding of potential costs for a series of design alternatives. These alternatives could range from a high-level ecological and topographic restoration to minimal actions that allow safe visitor access and minimize future deterioration and environmental damage.
Mike Swezy, West Peak restoration project manager for the District adds, “We will be working closely with the community to develop and explore a range of alternatives for the next chapter of West Peak’s history. There will be ample opportunities for the public to hear about and weigh in on this project, starting now and going right up until a decision is made.”
Currently, there is a short online survey to gather input regarding what people value about West Peak and what they may want to see happen there in the future. Project managers are also asking visitors to share their experiences through the Instagram hashtag: #westpeaking
Because parking at the West Peak gate is very limited, the best way to get to the site is to park at Rock Springs or in the dirt lot at the Mountain Theatre and hike in via the Mountain Top Trail.
A series of docent-led public walks in 2017 will also offer opportunities to learn about the site’s history, ecology, and spectacular views. A variety of forums, including the District’s Watershed Committee meetings, will offer opportunities for the community to voice their ideas, learn more about technical study findings, and discuss potential alternatives. Ultimately, a series of alternatives will be shared for public feedback at the end of the year, and a preferred alternative will be selected for Marin Municipal Water District Board approval.
More information about this project, public walks, meetings, technical study findings, and the development of alternatives is available at http://onetam.org/programs-and-projects/west-peak/. Members of the public are also invited to sign up for email updates at http://www.onetam.org/signup.
The restoration of West Peak is being supported by gifts from generous philanthropists and grassroots donors, and with the help of dedicated volunteers. For information about contributing to this significant undertaking, and to learn about One Tam philanthropic opportunities, please contact Matt Leffert, Director of Philanthropic Initiatives for the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, at (415) 561-3069 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Tamalpais Lands Collaborative (TLC) and One Tam Partners:
California State Parks
The California State Parks are dedicated to providing for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state's biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high-quality outdoor recreation. Learn more at www.parks.ca.gov.
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
The Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy is the nonprofit membership organization that supports the Golden Gate Recreation Area. Since 1981, the Parks Conservancy has provided support for site transformations, trail improvements, habitat restoration, research and conservation, volunteer and youth engagement, and interpretive and educational programs. In Marin, the Conservancy has restored habitat and trails, engaged youth and volunteers, and managed a variety of wildlife and plant monitoring programs. Learn more at www.parksconservancy.org.
Marin County Parks
Marin County offers an extensive system of regional and community parks, open space preserves, and trails for public use and enjoyment. It is dedicated to educating, inspiring, and engaging the people of Marin in the shared commitment of preserving, protecting, and enriching the natural beauty of Marin's parks and open spaces, and providing recreational opportunities for the enjoyment of all generations. Learn more at www.marincountyparks.org.
Marin Municipal Water District
Marin Municipal Water District is a public utility providing water to 189,400 people in south and central Marin County, and managing 21,600 acres of watershed lands open to public use. In operation since 1912, MMWD is the oldest municipal water district in California. The district’s mission is to manage natural resources in a sustainable manner and to provide customers with reliable, high-quality water at a reasonable price. Learn more at www.marinwater.org.
National Park Service
The National Park Service (NPS) is a federal agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior charged with managing the preservation and public use of America’s most significant natural, scenic, historic, and cultural treasures. The NPS manages the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes Mount Tamalpais, as well as 401 other park sites across the U.S. Learn more at www.nps.gov/goga.
MEDIA CONTACT: Lon Peterson